THE MAGAZINE

Urban Area Perspective: San Diego

By Matthew Harwood

Then why is national intelligence integration that important if it leads to this waste of time and resources for local police?

That’s why we’re pushing the threat domain process. When you’re focused on the right threats and you’re identifying a collection plan and a methodology, it gives a granularity and clarity to the officers in the field. They know what to look for.
Just after 9-11, we were directed to be the eyes and ears in the fight against terror. We were looking for terrorists everywhere. Everyone was confused. I mean, I was confused: What do I look for exactly? Consequently, you had 800,000 cops out there looking under every rock for what? It wound up being a Middle Eastern man, when actually it wasn’t our greatest threat at the time. Having a national intelligence enterprise allows us to give clarity to what we’re looking for and why.

What’s the most important change the department had to make to become a more active intelligence player?

There were two steps. One was we needed to truly identify what our threats were. We had no idea. We were still going after the stuff that sounded fun to look for, like La Cosa Nostra. Once we identified the right threats, we retooled our organization to meet those threats. One of the things that we recognized was that our source coverage in those particular threat areas was not very great. What we decided was that if the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Defense can develop high-level HUMINT sources, we certainly can too. So now we have retooled and specifically look at who can give us the information based on three essential questions: What do I need to know about that threat? Where do I get the information? And what mechanism or person is the best source of that information?

How did integrating the SDPD into the national intelligence community change the way you police day to day?

Developing HUMINT sources and assessing our needs on a continuous basis leads us to roll out departmentwide requests for information. For instance, we have a series of burglaries that we’re looking at. And it’s a particularly aggressive burglary crew. We don’t know who they are; we just know they’re gangsters. So we send out a memo to all investigators that handle sources and say “We want you to run this past your sources to see if they can identify who this is.”

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